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John Bedford '06
Junior John Bedford had a solid game with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Third-Ranked, Top-Seeded Jeffs Survive NESCAC Tournament First-Round Scare Against Eighth-Seeded Bowdoin

February 19, 2005

AMHERST, MA - They say anything can happen in postseason play, and it almost did on Saturday. Hosting eighth-seeded Bowdoin College in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament, top-seeded and third-ranked Amherst College trailed 61-59 with 4:32 left in regulation but rebounded to eliminate the pesky Polar Bears 74-68 before a near capacity crowd at LeFrak Gymnasium.

With the win - Amherst’s 16th straight, which shatters a school record - the Jeffs improve to 23-1 and will host the NESCAC semifinals and championship next Saturday and Sunday. Bowdoin finishes its season at 13-12.

“The 1-8 is a game that shouldn’t be played,” joked a relieved Amherst head coach Dave Hixon ’75 after the game. “It’s the most agonizing, toughest game to play, because the difference between 1 and 8 is supposed to be great. I didn’t think we had any focus. We started the game scoring 14 points in the first 11 minutes, and that’s not us.”

Despite shooting a robust 57.7% (15-for-26) in the opening half, Amherst led by just seven points at the break and actually trailed for a 4:11 stretch early on, thanks to an 11-2 Bowdoin run, capped by a step-back jumper by junior forward Kyle Petrie (Iowa City, IA). The Jeffs fought back and eventually claimed a 24-23 edge with a three-pointer and a layup from junior guard John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ), and then benefited from a rare five-point play when rookie point guard Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) drained an NBA three-pointer while Bowdoin first-year Andrew Hippert (Spencer, MA) was whistled for a foul off the ball, sending Amherst sophomore Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) to the charity stripe for a pair of free throws. A late 6-0 flurry gave the Jeffs their first and only double-digit lead of the game with 35 seconds left before halftime, but Bowdoin got the last laugh when sophomore forward John Goodridge (Merrimack, NH) swished a long-range bomb as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Goodridge’s trey seemed to shift the momentum in Bowdoin’s favor, and when play resumed, the Polar Bears went on an 11-3 tear, sparked by sophomore guard Kevin Bradley’s (Seekonk, MA) unconscious second-half shooting, and just like that Amherst trailed once again, 46-45. Not to be outdone, the Jeffs responded immediately with a 7-0 streak, to which Bowdoin answered with a 5-0 run of its own. The two teams traded buckets over the next 5:05, and the Polar Bears grabbed their final lead of the game, 61-59 with 4:32 left in regulation, on the flame-throwing Bradley’s third three-pointer of the second half.

Senior co-captain Andrew Schiel (Wayne, PA) put the hosts back on top for good with a three-point play on Amherst’s next possession, and clutch three-pointers from junior John Casnocha (San Francisco, CA) and senior Russell Lee (Lorton, VA) would bode well down the stretch. But Bowdoin refused to go away, cutting the lead to just two points on two separate occasions over the final 2:44. Petrie’s second three of the night, which clanked off the front of the rim but somehow rattled in, brought the Polar Bears within 70-68 with 15 seconds on the clock. Bowdoin missed out on an unbelievable opportunity in the waning seconds, however. When Schiel missed the front end of a one-and-one, Petrie seemingly secured the rebound, which would have given the Polar Bears a chance to tie or win in the final moments, but the ball trickled out of bounds, sealing the win for the Jeffs. Bedford and Olson then iced the game with a pair of free throws each over the final nine seconds, securing the six-point victory.

Bowdoin’s strong effort against Amherst was not unprecedented. The Polar Bears held a six-point second-half lead in a 69-60 Lord Jeff victory earlier this season. Amherst also hosted Bowdoin as the No. 1 seed in the 2002-03 NESCAC Tournament quarterfinals, and although the Jeffs prevailed 78-67, the Polar Bears turned it into a one-possession game on three occasions over the final five minutes.

Amherst benefited from balanced scoring, placing all five starters in double figures. Bedford led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds, followed by Casnocha’s 15 points and 12 boards and Schiel’s 14 and seven. Lee was similarly impressive with 11 points, six assists and three steals. Olson chipped in with 11 points and four assists.

Amherst’s senior class of Schiel, Lee and the injured Ray Corrigan (Queens, NY) have now won 96 games over four seasons, which is a new school record.

Bradley and Petrie paced Bowdoin with 19 and 18 points, respectively.

Next Saturday’s NESCAC semifinals will pit the Jeffs against Trinity College at 2 p.m., followed by a 4 p.m. matchup between Tufts University and Bates College. The winner of Sunday’s championship game will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Box Score/Play-by-Play

2005 NESCAC TOURNAMENT
First Round - Saturday, February 19
No. 8 Bowdoin 68 at No. 1 Amherst 74
No. 7 Colby 88 at No. 2 Tufts 99
No. 6 Williams 73 at No. 3 Bates 76 (ot)
No. 5 Wesleyan 64 at No. 4 Trinity 78
Semifinals at Amherst (Saturday, February 26)
No. 1 Amherst vs. No. 4 Trinity (2 p.m.)
No. 2 Tufts vs. No. 3 Bates (4 p.m.)
Championship at Amherst (Sunday, February 27)
Semifinal winners (Noon)